Counties in the region support and influence TOD in a number of essential ways. They often play a lead role in planning for future major regional transitways, acquire rights-of-way, and contribute to funding the capital and operating costs of transit. Counties frequently lead station area planning and implementation efforts. In addition, counties plan and design county roadways and rights-of-way, which can influence the character of development near transit. This affects how easy it is to walk and bicycle to transit.


The State of Minnesota authorizes counties, as a Regional Railroad Authority for the county, to identify corridors and acquire land for future transportation purposes. Regional Railroad Authorities conduct studies to explore potential investments that meet a corridor’s long-term needs, such as improving transportation options, managing growth, or supporting economic development. Regional Railroad Authorities collaborate with the Metropolitan Council, local governments, and other stakeholders, such as community groups and business associations. These efforts determine routes for transit, the type of transit that will be most cost-effective (e.g., bus or light rail transit), and potential locations for stations. A key consideration is how effectively the future transitway and its stations will serve existing and future concentrations of housing and jobs.

Each county in the region has a Railroad Authority. Typically, County Commissioners serve on Regional Railroad Authorities for their counties. Carver County is part of a five-county authority that includes four counties outside of the region.

Midtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis, 2014.Counties often take the lead on early planning in the development of major regional transitways. Their planning process involves exploring mode and alignment alternatives, selecting a preferred alternative, and completing a preliminary review of environmental impacts. When these tasks are done, major responsibilities for further engineering and design of the transitway usually shift to the Metropolitan Council.

Counties typically plan for projects in order to be eligible for funding from a nationally competitive program–the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Programs. For a project to be eligible to receive federal funding, it must be identified as a future project in the region’s 2040 Transportation Policy Plan (TPP). The Metropolitan Council will work with counties to amend the TPP for projects that are regional priorities.

Land use and economic development are two criteria used in the federal evaluation process to evaluate the effectiveness of major transit investments. The FTA provides guidelines for how these factors will be analyzed. Many land use and economic development factors fall under the jurisdiction of local governments, such as comprehensive planning, zoning, and support for affordable housing. County staff and consultants work with and coordinate among local governments to explore potential changes in policy and regulations that will support future TOD. These efforts can improve chances for federal funding.

Not all transitway planning projects are initiated by a county, and partnerships vary from corridor to corridor. For example, Metro Transit leads planning for many bus rapid transit (BRT) projects, the City of Minneapolis is planning for streetcars, and Dakota County plays a strong implementation role for the METRO Red Line.

Counties often lead corridor and station area planning in coordination with cities located along a future transitway. These efforts build local support for the transitway, help decision-making on design and engineering, and identify potential needs and opportunities for development and infrastructure. Members of the public, as well as stakeholder groups and local policymakers, participate in these efforts and provide oversight. They help inform changes in local policy, community development regulations, and city and county capital improvement programs.
Corridor and station area planning typically covers the following scope of work:

  • Market studies and analysis of near-term and long-term development opportunities

  • Urban design analysis and recommendations for improvements

  • Analysis of pedestrian and bicycle connections and improvement recommendations

  • Recommended policy changes and steps for implementation

Station area planning for the extension of the METRO Green LineThe Community Works program supports corridor and station area planning in Hennepin County. The program invests time and resources in transportation corridors, including all major transitways in Hennepin County. Conducted with an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach, program activities support public participation, planning studies, and funding for infrastructure improvements.

Information about the corridor and station area planning can be found at:

Hennepin County has many of the region’s transitway stations, and it provides specific resources to support TOD. Hennepin County’s Transit Oriented Development Grant Program supports development projects within a half-mile of an existing or planned regional transitway station or high-frequency bus service, or within a quarter-mile of an express bus service. This program is similar to the Metropolitan Council’s TOD Grants. Grants and loans assist with a project’s public purpose, by helping fund property acquisition and clearance, public infrastructure,  and/or public amenities (e.g., plazas, bicycle parking). Development projects near transit may also be eligible for other Hennepin County grant programs.

County roadways can support walking, bicycling, and transit use. Their design also influences the character of places. The design of new roadways, the reconstruction of roadways, and major maintenance of existing roadways all present opportunities to improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists. For example, Hennepin County adopted a Complete Streets policy to ensure that its design process addresses the needs of all users and the character of the area. It also supports development of bicycle and pedestrian facilities along county roadways through its 2040 Bicycle Transportation Plan and its grant programs and cost-sharing. Ramsey County’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is a resource and framework plan for developing a more interconnected and bicycle-friendly county. Other counties address bicycles and pedestrians in their comprehensive plans.

Counties also invest in public facilities like libraries, government buildings, and parks or recreation centers. They also have housing and redevelopment authorities that assist in development projects. Counties can support TOD by prioritizing their investments in locations near transit, and by designing facilities to increase access through transit, walking, and bicycling.


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